Is Encounter Killing Ethical ? Case Study-1

Is Encounter Killing Ethical?


All Ethical principles depend on the situation, environment and cultural background to which they are part.

If the situation is normal and pose no immediate threat to larger community, then Encounter killing is unethical which defies all the ethical principles including:

  • Virtue Ethics which has Wisdom, Justice, Courage and Temperance as cardinal virtues. Here Justice is denied to them without allowing them to prove their case.
  • It also defies Rule of Law and Equality before law and Judicial principle of Innocence until proven guilty which are ethical principles enshrined in the constitution
  • Chance to reform and chance rectify the way of living of a criminal is denied out rightly, Hence Unethical. Because, society must base itself on Reformative justice and not retributive justice
  • If we approach from Utilitarian perspective – If the criminal who is the sole bread winner to family is encountered without giving a chance to reform. It is injustice done to whole family members of the family
  • There is always a chance of error in judgement and mis-identification of culprits – Innocents are punished or killed – totally unethical
  • All criminals should be subjected to a Fair trial, according to the law of the land
  • But, if the criminal or extremist is immediate threat to the society — Terrorist act, Armed with weapons aiming civilians to take life, then Encounter is justified due to larger good according to the Theory of Utilitarianism, and the present situation of Increased terror attacks, Lone wolf attack at crowded places, unsymmetrical warfare by terrorists demands such an act.
  • But, this must be resorted only when other options are exhausted to capture the criminal alive


Ethical issues in Encounters


  • Fake encounters for Political, financial gains and other vested interests – Unethical and unacceptable
  • Ethical issues like compromise on Human rights, Rule of Law, Equality before law, Fair trail to the accused, Chance to reform, Reformative justice is witnessed.
  • No person has the right to take away the life of other person, even he may be terrorist which flows from the principle —- “Treatment of human beings as an end in itself rather than means to an end.
  • If the police, acted in self defense or in protecting the innocents – then it is may be ethically permissible

Professional ethics (to follow senior orders) may come in conflict with individual morality to respect Human rights and value for others’ lives – may put an ethical dilemma on the part of police officer. Moreover, when information is not available beforehand about the criminal with the police officer – difficult to make Ethical decisions and value judgements.


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